In a new interview, Céline Dion calls her backup dancer Pepe Muñoz her "best friend"
The superstar singer — who announced her forthcoming new album and first world tour in over a decade, both titled Courage, a day earlier — addressed how she and Muñoz, 34, became the subject of romance rumors in the years since losing her late husband of 20 years, René Angélil, to throat cancer at the age of 73 in 2016.
“At first I felt for him quite a bit,” Dion, 51, said about the dancer an interview with Extra on Thursday. “Pepe is gay. At first, I think some people did not know that.”
“The thing is that he’s my best friend and he did so much for me and even just holding my hand… it’s something that I haven’t had for a long time,” she continued. “A hug from a 6′ 3” man, it was wonderful. People really thought there was a romance going on. He did so much for me, for my mental health, my spirituality, my inner strength.”
Dion previously addressed her relationship status in January, telling Dan Wootton (of The Dan Wootton Interview podcast) in an interview: “I am single.”
She also explained that she and Muñoz bonded right away as friends and that their relationship “evolved.”
“We’re friends, we’re best friends,” she said. “Of course we hug and hold hands and go out, so people see that. I mean, he’s a gentleman. He’s giving me his hand to go out.”
Additionally, Dion revealed to Wootton that she’s not bothered by the romance rumors between her and Muñoz. “I don’t mind because he’s handsome and he’s my best friend,” she said.
During her interview with Extra, Dion said that she named her new projects Courage in honor of getting back to the stage following the deaths of Angélil and her brother Daniel, whom she also lost to cancer in 2016.
“It was a challenge,” she said. “It was a challenge to go back onstage. I didn’t know if I was going to have the strength and the courage to sing again because René always sang with me. René was my second half.”
Of raising her and Angélil’s three sons — René-Charles, 18, and twins Eddy and Nelson, 8 — without their father, she said: “Raising the three boys, I was afraid that they were going to ask me about ‘where’s dad?’ every day. I was afraid a little bit to not be cuddled at night. I was afraid to not have a partner to make me laugh.”
Dion recently opened up to PEOPLE in this week’s issue about all she’s been through in the last few years, including losing Angélil — who was also her longtime manager. “He gave his all for me,” she said. The mother of three revealed she’s “stronger” after it all, and was proud to say, “I’m the boss now.”
The Courage World Tour will begin on Sept. 18 in Canada before coming over to the states on Oct. 18, for a performance in Cleveland, Ohio.
Dion’s last tour was the Taking Chances World Tour, which ran from 2008 to 2009.
Prior to that, she spent four years in Vegas on her A New Day… show at the famed Caesars Palace Colosseum, which ran 717 dates between March 25, 2003 through Dec. 15, 2007.
She’d return to Vegas after her tour for another Vegas residency, aptly titled Céline. It premiered on March 15, 2011 and will run through June 8 of this year.
“As you know, I have been performing at Caesar’s Palace on and off for the past 16 years,” Dion told fans in Los Angeles on Wednesday. “I think there was a miscommunication or something because I think I was supposed to be there for like two months. Something around that. [But] because of the great support from people like you, we kept going on and on and on and on. You kept coming, coming, coming! My heart kept going on and on and on!”
“It has been a great place for us to perform,” she said. “And we are still there until June so come and see us!”